I am pleased to introduce the first guest post on MarksMoneyMind. After attending CampFI with my wife, Marge, last weekend, I asked her if she would be interested in sharing her experience. At first she was hesitant, however, shortly after we returned home I found a surprise email with a full blog post attached.
So without further adieu, here is Marge’s takeaway on CampFI and her perspective on financial independence…
My Experience at CampFI
This past weekend I attended Camp FI – Rocky Mountain in Colorado Springs, CO with my husband Mark. This was my first organized FI (financial independence) event. The weekend was filled with presentations, topics, tips and sharing of personal experiences centered around each participant’s financial journey. We heard wisdom from some of the most prominent members of the FI community including Paula Pant of Afford Anything, Carl Jensen of 1500 Days, Mindy Jensen of BiggerPockets Money, Michael Robinson of Uncommon Dream, Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch and Paul Thompson of What’s Up Next? Podcast.
Between the scheduled presentations, small groups gathered to further discuss topics, seek out others with experience in areas of interest and generally get to know one another (we hiked, we ate, we drank good beer!). I came away with a renewed excitement around my own financial independence journey. Most of all, I came away with a sense of community because I met other people who like to talk about personal finance too! We met many new friends, all of whom I hope to see soon at another retreat or meetup.
CampFI was a fun learning experience and I appreciated being there with my husband. Not only so we could ‘divide and conquer’ during break out sessions, but so I could have the experience first-hand with Mark (his first CampFI also). I also stumbled on a great side hustle. I plan to pimp out my husband on social media. (Not as nefarious at it may sound! He loves to do personal tax returns as his side hustle and I am a strong promoter of his talents.)
Mark and I have approached our financial journey as a partnership for a long time. However, the deep dive into the financial independence community online has so far been his thing. It isn’t that I am not interested, because I am, very much so. It has more to do with his available time now that he is no longer working. Plus, he culls out the most interesting posts and podcasts for me to review at my leisure. We are a team when it comes to our personal financial goals, but this wasn’t necessarily always the case.
Our Journey to Financial Independence
Mark and I married in our late 20’s. We had finished college and with new jobs and a reliable flow of paychecks we quickly fell into living beyond our means. He spent on his things and I spend on mine. We never really discussed much financially as our pay seemed to cover the monthly spending. However, with this blind and separate approach we soon found ourselves jointly burdened by about $25,000 (approximately $45,000 in 2019 dollars) in consumer dept. At some point Mark showed me how much interest we were paying to service that debt each month and, fortunately, that was enough to focus us on a rapid debt paydown plan with the common goal of not financing the banks.
Not long after paying off the debt we bought our first home, committed to a minimum savings rate of 20% of gross income (exceeding this amount whenever fortune came our way) and started changing our overall financial habits. We postponed larger purchases (a used car or vacation) by establishing savings buckets and then bought with cash up front. Like many of you we were ‘those friends’ who were always watching our pennies, tracking every dollar and cutting expenses wherever we could (most of our friends still hang out with us though!). These are just a few ideas, and habits we still employ, that set us on our path to financial independence, which we reached prior to Mark’s retirement at the end of 2015. While I still work, because the health bennies are just too rich to walk away from and the work is enjoyable, we are no longer dependent on W-2 income to cover a lifestyle we enjoy.
Common Goals Strengthen a Partnership
I realized not long into our journey (really during the debt paydown period) how much I enjoyed cutting costs, saving money, celebrating small accomplishments and debating where to direct our savings—with Mark. This was such an unexpected benefit to what may sometimes feel like painful sacrifices. We were working towards this common goal together, in partnership, as equals, responsible for different tasks perhaps, but always on the same pathway together. I cannot think of a better scenario for establishing a solid foundation for marriage. We discussed everything, fought about some things—disagreements really like when or how to spend or save (I was always asking when we would finally be at a point to spend), but in the end, we always came to equal terms and were excited to be partners.
At one time, during Mark’s working years, he asked me to step up my knowledge because he didn’t really have anyone to talk with about financial stuff. I agreed and can say that I have learned a great deal from Mark’s money mind over the years. And, while Marge’s money mind may work a little differently or be somewhat less intense when it comes to certain areas (I asked him to stop showing me the giant spreadsheets a long time ago) we work together to set and reach goals. And then we celebrate together! I like to think Mark enjoys the celebrating because of me. We respect each other’s opinion, listen fairly well to each other’s position when making decisions, comfortably call each other out when necessary for not listening and we don’t fight about money—or really anything for that matter.
The Next Generation
This partnership approach has not only set us up for a strong marriage, but I believe it has also helped us be better parents. A lot of the parenting benefits have come from having already learned how to discuss and compromise. We are now taking on a third partner, our daughter. Katie. Who, after a life-time of money talk at the dinner table, now ‘gets it.’ She’s stopped rolling her eyes and is excited to be on her own path toward financial independence, starting at age 19. Oh, if we only knew at her age what she knows now!
I share this non-financial benefit for all the reluctant participants in hopes that you may see more advantages to getting your financial house in order than simply socking away a chunk of your household income in hopes that someday you will get to spend it. I know first hand how daunting the task is and how frustrating it is to be patient while waiting to reach financial independence. However, if you are on this journey with a partner, making plans, setting goals, celebrating the successes along the way, I can only imagine that you will also build a stronger relationship with that partner – a relationship that may bring you a lifetime of joy, happiness, peace of mind and financial independence.
I hope you enjoyed this first post from “MargesMoneyMind.” I intend to encourage Marge to share more of her perspective with us in the future!